Mercy Centre Benefit Concert with Donie Carroll and Friends

How it’s New York: at the New York Irish Center in Long Island City
How it’s Irish: Irish singer Donie Carroll and friends raise funds for the Mercy Centre orphanage in Thailand

Last week at the New York Irish Center local Cork transplant Donie Carroll brought together  a host of Irish and area talent to raise money in his annual concert for the Mercy Centre Orphanage in Bangkok Thailand.  I’ve been to this concert over the past few years and it is always a treat.

Featured in the show were Donie’s longtime cohort in supporting the Mercy Centre , multi-instrumentalist and singer Mick Moloney, joined by a trio of lovely fiddlers, Liz Hanley, Heather Bixler and Haley Richardson.

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Liam O’Maonlai and Xavier Cardriche at LIC Bar

How it’s New York: at LIC Bar in Long Island City, New York
How it’s Irish: Irish singer and pianist Liam O’Maonlai

Monday night, in an intimate back room at this Long Island City music bar, there was a flurry of song and spirit swirling around one of my favorite Irish singers, Liam O’Maonlai, and his opening act, the talented Brooklyn singer/songwriter Xavier Cardriche.  Brick walls, a soft fire and a small but very intent crowd of music lovers filled the room with a warm glow.

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There’s a RIOT on the way!

How it’s New York:  Happened this week in New York City
How it’s Irish: Talk with Irish Theatre company ThisPopBaby and Panti Bliss about upcoming tour of their show RIOT

RIOT. photo by Conor Horgan for THISISPOPBABY

This past Tuesday the Irish Arts Center hosted a talk with the creators and star of the upcoming show RIOT from the Dublin Theatre company THISPOPBABY.  The brainchild of Jennifer Jennings and Phillip McMahon, who are collectively THISPOPBABY, and starring the one and only Panti Bliss (aka Rory O’Neill), they came to share the origins of the show and a bit about their collective theatrical paths.  The show will be playing 3 nights in February 2018 at the NYU Skirball Center, and tickets are going fast!

Founded in 2007 during their days of club-hopping, Jennings and McMahon began

Dublin, and Ireland itself, is changing and they want to present something that shows the tides of the times. 

THISPOPBABY to present theatrical pieces in club settings.  Eventually they went on to present more elaborate pieces in tents at popular music festivals, widening their audiences and allowing them the draw to be able to present in theatres.  RIOT is the ultimate culmination of these efforts and played sold out runs at the Spiegeltent and Vicar Street in Dublin last year to great critical acclaim.

I’ve met Philly McMahon a number of times with Panti over the past few years, and he has been the co-writer and director of her show “High Heels in Low Places“, hence Panti’s involvement as the Ring Leader in this new show.

They talked a bit about the formation of that show and how a lot of it was shaped by the after-math of Panti-gate and the Marriage Referndum campaign. (more…)

Karl Geary – Montpelier Parade Launch at the Irish Arts Center

How it’s New York: In New York at the Irish Arts Center
How it’s Irish: Irish writer Karl Geary launches his first Novel Montpelier Parade.

Karl Geary reading from Montpelier Parade at the Irish Arts Center – photo by Andy Ryan

He has crafted a compelling story of longing, love, loss and isolation with vivid characters and a driving narrative that made me not want to put the book down, and sad when I was finished reading.

What a delight it was to get the chance to hear my old East Village pal Karl Geary read this past Tuesday night at the Irish Arts Center!  It was yet another wonderful evening of collaboration put together by the innovative folks at the IAC, with Jenna Nicholls and Gerry Leonard providing musical counterpoint and an insightful conversation with Poet, Playwright and Actor Dael Orlandersmith.  I got a chance to sit down with Karl before the show and it was fantastic to get a further look inside the characters and inspirations behind this fantastic first book.

 

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War Movies and Film Festivals

How It’s New York: Irish Screen America and New York Film Festival happen in New York City. Irish Rep’s Ciarán O’Reilly is in one of the shorts, and several of the directors live here.
Float

Float

How It’s Irish: “No Stone Unturned” is a film about the Troubles and New York Irish Shorts are made by Irish filmmakers

Last weekend was quite the film buff’s dream. Not only was Irish Film America hosting their annual film festival, but Lincoln Center’s New York Film Festival also opened. I was lucky enough to attend both in one day. Focused on Irish cinema, I began by seeing Alex Gibney’s “No Stone Unturned” at the Elinor Bunin Monroe film center. Described as a murder mystery in its title, going in I wasn’t sure if I was seeing a drama or a documentary, but it’s a murder mystery doc. (more…)

Dylan Moran’s Wit and Wisdom at Theater 80

How it’s New York: Theater 80 is in New York’s East Village
How it’s Irish: Dylan Moran was born and raised in Navan, Co. Meath

Dylan Moran ended a 4-night run at theater 80 in the East Village on Saturday night, which I was lucky enough to attend. In short, my body heaved with laughter, a sure sign of a successful performance.
His big themes were politics, family, middle-age, millennials, technology, and the past, with a scattering of comparisons between New York, England and his native Ireland. (more…)

Queens Gets A Film Fest – The Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema

 
How it’s New York: The movie extravaganza took place in Queens
How it’s Irish: The fest featured films from the Celtic Nations including Canada and The UK

 

 

Earlier this month, Queens played host to the inaugural Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema. The Fest, which ran from August 4th-13th, screened over 150 features and shorts at the Queens Museum and Kew Gardens Cinemas, which is the borough’s only operating art-house theatre. There were free panels as well on subjects such as Women in Independent Film and The Dos and Don’ts of Distribution. With the Unisphere close by, it was fitting that the selections came from a veritable United Nations of countries like Canada, Romania, Pakistan, the UK and the US.

Although Ireland didn’t have anything in the fest, the Celtic Nations were well represented. I saw the Canadian feature “Grand Unified Theory”, which won Best Screenplay. In keeping wit the themed programming the organizers created for the fest – science and outer space were the theme for what I saw- was accompanied by a music video from the British band Jenny Got Famous called “Loneliest Hour”. The charming video is about an astronaut in a spaceship made entirely out of cardboard, which director Karl Dixon explained in a Q&A after, took three months to build. (more…)

‘Woody Sez’ will break your heart and lift your spirits

How it’s New York: “Woody Sez” takes place at Irish Repertory Theatre, one of the city’s best residential theatres. Guthrie

David M. Lutken plays Woody Guthrie in “Woody Sez.” ©Carol Rosegg.

influenced the Clancy Brothers and Christy Moore. Andy Irvine, of Planxty, has a wonderful song tribute to Guthrie in his “Never Tire of the Road.”
How it’s (Irish) Scottish: Woody Guthrie was of Scots descent, and his mother sang old ballads to him. The show has been performed at the Edinburgh Fringe and in Belfast.

Listen to our podcast with David M. Lutken here!

Somewhere during the thrilling performance of “Woody Sez” at Irish Rep I began to feel depressed.

When did the working man stop believing in unions? When did labor throw in with management? How did this happen? Would Guthrie, whose guitar had “this machine fights fascists” on it, be dismissed as “Antifa” today?

There has hardly been a rally this year that didn’t close (or open) with Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.” Maybe, like me, you learned the song in kindergarden (along with “If I Had a Hammer,” written by Pete Seeger, a long-time collaborator of Guthrie’s). Maybe you forgot this song was composed by a 20th-Century American.

Woody Guthrie (1912-1967), the subject of the devised musical byby David M. Lutken with Nick Corley and Darcie Deaville, Helen Jean Russell and Andy Teirstein, is considered the father of American folk-music. Rightly so. His music, which chronicled the Dust Bowl years in particular and fought Fascism, had an impact on not only folk singers but also rock singers.

“Woody Sez” at Irish Rep is already on my Top 10 list. It is one of the best shows of the year.

I know, the year’s not over. This show will not be edged out of Top 10. It will probably stay in Top 3. Hell, it may stay at the top.

It was meant to end in June, but it kept extending. It now will end on Sept. 10. You can still see it: hurry up!

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Canada’s Genie Bouchard Comes To New York To Make Her World Team Tennis Debut

How it’s New York: World Team Tennis, which has a local team, The New York Empire, plays here
How it’s Irish: All the teams have players and coaches from a wide array of countries including Canada, Great Britain and the US.

For tennis enthusiasts looking for a fix between Wimbledon and the US Open, there is courtside action to be found locally thanks to Mylan World Team Tennis, co-founded by Billie Jean King in 1973. World Team Tennis is like the tennis equivalent of minor league baseball, and offers fans a relaxed evening of on-court action, contest giveaways, amusing mascots, trivia and a lot of music. Literally after every point the announcer played a few seconds from a vast array of songs.  Last week the big news was the arrival of Canadian Eugenie Bouchard who joined the home team, the New York Empire, coached by two-time Olympic gold medal winner Gigi Fernandez.

Genie Bouchard

New York Empire Team Members Neil Skupski, Kirsten Flipkens and Coach Gigi Fernandez

I attended last Friday night’s match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing. There was a considerable amount of construction going on in preparation for the US Open at the end of August and the audience had intimate seats inside Court 17. The New York Empire faced off against the San Diego Aviators, the reigning champs. Along with Bouchard, the Empire, which is like a mini United Nations, included Americans Mardy Fish and Maria Sanchez, Brit Neal Skupski and Belgian Kirsten Flipkens.

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This year’s tune: Catskills Irish Arts Week 2017

How it’s New York: Catskills Irish Arts Week takes place in East Durham, New York, and everybody in the Tri-State area comes

Kevin Crawford, Dylan Foley, David Doocey launch “The Drunken Gaugers” at The Blackthorn.

who can (and many from further away).
How it’s Irish: It’s a week of intensive Irish music, dance, and arts. Some teachers are Irish, some are Irish-American, all love their subject. And East Durham, we’re told, looks a bit like Ireland.

There’s always one.

One tune you hear everywhere you go, in the Catskills. The first summer I came it was “Pipe on the Hob.” One year it was “Brendan Tonra’s jig.”

This year I think there were two.

It’s usually a jig, but not always.  If you’re in a building with several classes in different rooms, say the Yellow Deli (the  restaurant with wonderful baked goods open all night during this week), you might hear strains of it floating down the hall as concertina and fiddlers and whistlers all pick it out.

This year, I thought, maybe there isn’t one. I’d been to a few sessions, a few “listening rooms” (close-up concerts by some of the amazing guests: Michael Rooney on harp with June McCormack on flute stand out– gorgeous stuff– her flute playing is clear and pure and what he does with a moving base line and complex chords somehow suggests Cape Breton piano and Burt Bacharach at the same time), and of course, the concerts held at the Michael J. Quill Center in the evening (before the sessions and listening room and CD launches).

 

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Rocker May at Webster Hall

How it’s New York: Webster Hall is a New York music venue
How it’s Irish: Imelda May is an Irish artist
Imelda May at Webster Hall

Imelda May at Webster Hall

She has apparently been called  the queen of Ireland by Bono, but I didn’t know a whole lot about Imelda May – other than she was from the Liberties in Dublin, had a unique hairstyle  and sang rockabilly. But that all changed on Tuesday when I saw her perform at Webster Hall. A school night an’ all, and the place was throbbing. I’m not sure what constitutes a full house at this non-seated venue, but it was close to full with what seemed like loyal May fans, many of whom were Irish, and Dubs in particular. A sign in the audience confirmed this and caught the singer’s eye when in the middle of her act she read the sign to the audience,

“Are youse comin’ for a pint after?”

to which she laughed and said

“Up the Dubs!”

Her set began with a couple of heartfelt ballads as she sat on a stool in a more indie/singer/songwriter style than I’d expected. Gone was the quiffed hair I had known her for, and in its place was a Joan Jett look and later I was to discover a Joan Jett sound too. The new look is part of May’s metamorphosis after some major life changing events – a divorce, a new baby, and a new musical style on her latest album, “Life Love Flesh Blood.”

A good friend of Bono’s, she talked about a recent dinner she had at his house, where a poem was recited instead of grace before dinner.

The poem focused on the two base emotions – love and fear (not hate as we all assume)  – and how pertinent it is that the world is focusing heavily on one of those right now. There is a great line in the song that followed this introduction, “Love and Fear”,

“Good people do bad things and bad people do good things … ”

– one that is still playing in my head days later. Other standouts songs of the evening were “Black tears” and “Should’ve been you”, both sang with a pure, raw intensity. (more…)

Mundy at the Irish Arts Center

How it’s New York:     At the Irish Arts Center in New York City
How it’s Irish:  Irish singer/songwriter Mundy

It’s always a treat when Edmund Enright (aka Mundy) comes to town, and his kickoff to his current American tour at the Irish Arts Center on June 7th was no exception!

Opening the night was the duo August Wells comprised of singer/songwriter Kenneth Griffin and keyboardist John Rauchenberger.  I was surprised that I hadn’t heard of them before, as their music was great, and their sound bold and rich.

August Wells – Kenneth Griffin and John Rauchenberger

Kenneth’s soaring vocals particularly intrigued me on their song Here in the Wild from their CD Madness is the Mercy, from which most of the songs in their set came.  I’m loving listening to the CD and will definitely check them out in person again!  You can find them here: August Wells

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Caroline’s On Broadway Presents Des Bishop

How it’s New York: Caroline’s has been entertaining local audiences for over three decades

DES BISHOP

How it’s Irish: Des Bishop and all of the comedians on the bill are Irish-American

Des Bishop at Caroline’s on Broadway
Saturday, June 24, 7:30 and 10 p.m.
Sunday, June 25, 7:30 p.m.
1626 Broadway, New York
212-757-4100

Caroline’s kept it all in the hilarious (Irish-American) family Friday night and for headliner Des Bishop, that was literal as he shared the bill with his brother Aidan, and their much-abused mum was in the audience. Friday kicked off the first of five shows the lads are doing over the weekend, with Brendan Fitzgibbons as host for the evening.

Fitzgibbons, a Chicago native, warmed up the room with crowd work, showing no love for Wisconsin or New Jersey. Having lived in both states I say fair. Now calling Crown Heights in Brooklyn home, Fitzgibbons explained that his current roommates are all women, which his friends told him sounded awful. His take on the difference between living with women (his current roommates) and with guys:

“I have a safe place for my emotions. Beats being called gay whenever I asked about the weather.”

Although most people in the room last night were fans, for those unfamiliar with the Bishop brothers’ story, they were raised in Queens but spent large parts of their youth and adult years in Ireland. Aidan Bishop, the younger of the two, has been living in Dublin for the last 14 years. He’s worked steadily as a comedian in Europe, creating a one-man show that went to the Edinburgh Fringe and is perhaps best known as the resident MC at the International Comedy Club in Dublin.

Of his unmistakable Flushing accent Bishop remarked, it’s “the least intelligent accent on the planet. You’d never hear it on the Discovery Channel.” About a decade ago, when he was in his late 20s, Bishop, who had struggled as a student, learned for the first time he was dyslexic, which was life-changing for him and also a source for comedic gold.

“When I had to look up ‘dyslexia’ on Google, it was the most patronizing ‘did you mean?’ ever! Fuck you, Google!”

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Review: Sinking Ship’s ‘A Hunger Artist’ feeds the soul

How it’s New York: The show takes place at the Connelly Theater, one of those theaters inside an old school (?) you may never

Jon Levin in ‘A Hunger Artist.’ Photo by
Kelly Stuart

have known was there but is wonderful, and is presented by The Tank’s Flint & Tinder series, which makes space available to artists.
How it’s Irish: It’s Celto-Slav, really. But the Irish do have an affinity for Kafka.

Sinking Ship Productions
The Connelly Theater
220 East Fourth Street (between Avenues A & B)
Through Tuesday, June 27
Presented by The Tank

 

Sinking Ship Productions adaptation of Franz Kafka’s “A Hunger Artist” makes you want to stand up and cheer.

It’s only June and I’m calling it now as possibly the best solo performance of the year.

It’s smart. It’s funny (and Kafka is really funny. Seriously, he is. The word “Kafkaesque” really should mean dread AND FUNNY, not just  scary as Hell. Though it’s scary as Hell too).

And it’s highly theatrical.

Inventive. Fresh. Physical.

Presented by The Tank, at the Connelly Theater (one of those theaters in an old building you probably have never been to), this is a work that is everything new theater should be.

And astonishingly, all of the roles are played by performer Jonathan Levin, including the fat producer, and the skeletal Hunger Artist. (more…)